November 27, 2010
I've been busy on another project (which I will be announcing here soon) so I've unfortunately fallen behind in posting this, but here it is.
This popular classic fall race always boasts at least a few features designed to get the racers wet. This year would be a bit different though since in the week leading up to the race, Victoria was pounded with some severe winter weather (by west coast standards). Temperatures approached -10 degrees Celsius accompanied by two moderate snowfalls. By race day, the cold spell was over, but the puddles that the race usually goes though were still frozen and so for safety reasons they had to be bypassed. In addition, there was still snow on much of the course and while not deep it was fairly slippery.
In preparation for the conditions, I had brought a couple of options for footwear. After doing my warm-up on part of the course with Shawn Nelson and realizing that things were definitely slippery, I opted to go with my regular trail runners outfitted with YakTrax that I had borrowed. It's impossible to say exactly how much time they gained for me, but they certainly seemed to help quite a lot. They were not perfect though, as most of the snow was slushy and I still slipped around a bit, but on the downhills especially the footing felt quite secure.
Gunner is usually a very competitive race and usually boasts a strong field of road runners. This year, perhaps because of the conditions, the field wasn't quite at stacked, but my usual competition in the form of Shawn Nelson, Sean Chester, and Nick Walker were there. It was great to see Brad Cunningham (who has also recently joined by training group) out running his first race in some time. While I hoped that my footwear choice would give me a bit of an edge there would still be plenty of competition.
I settled into a comfortable rhythm once the race was underway. Shawn really put the hammer down right away and put a significant gap on everyone else, but I was running with a half dozen other guys in the chase group. Over the next km or so I pushed though and found myself running with Sean in the 2/3 position. Unfortunately, by this time Shawn was almost out of sight and that would be the last I would see of him until after the finish. Despite only wearing racing flat and sliding around, his fitness carried him though to the win.
I ran with Sean for the next km or so until we hit the first steep climb of the course. It isn't long, but it does have quite a grade. At this point, I was able to make up a bit of ground as Sean's shoes slowed his progress (he was also wearing racing flats). I still heard someone behind me as I continued on and assumed it was Sean, but I didn't look back and didn't find out until a little later that it was another racer named Trevor Ruck would had moved into 3rd just behind me. I have a suspicion that Trever had not done a race of this type before because 20 min into the race, he asked one of the volunteers how much further it was (they didn't know, but I told him were were just passed halfway). For me, it was a bit of a tell and didn't seem to be the best race strategy, as you wouldn't be likely to ask that question unless you were hurting.
To his credit though, he tenaciously hung on despite the fact that he was obviously working quite hard. I'm sure he also benefited from the fact that we wore cross country spikes which seemed to give him pretty good traction. Once we popped back out onto the main Thetis trail, Trevor decided it was time to make his move and passed me. I was feeling reasonable and didn't let him get far ahead though. There were still a few hills left on the last km of the course and I hoped to be able to reel him in at that point. On the first little hill, I gained ground, on the second I was able to pull close to even. On the 3rd and final hill, I knew it was likely my last chance to make a convincing move. With the encouragement of the spectators on the top of the hill, I powered up there and passed convincingly. I didn't look back once I hit the top and did my best to move with speed on the last few hundred meters. I finished in 34:57, just 9 seconds ahead of Trevor and good for 2nd place overall. I talked to Trevor afterwords and he told me that he thought we were racing for the win. He hadn't seen Shawn out it front since he vanished out in front so quickly. This likely explains while he held on so long - nothing like the motivation of a possible win to spur you on!
It was by far my best ever Gunner Shaw race (by next best showing was 7th back in 2008). It terms of how I felt, I would probably rate it as a B+. I felt that I could push well, but didn't have the extra gear you get when you have one of those exceptional days. Shawn won with over a minute on me and Brad cruised into a strong 4th place finish. Melanie McQuaid won the woman's division with a 39:08 clocking while Sonja raced to a well deserved 5th place finish. Thanks to PIH and all the volunteers who make it another successful race!
Gerry Etcheverry also produced a couple of neat video clips:
And one from Carlos Castillo:
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